A halftime adjustment, defense and chants of ‘MVP’: How Tyrese Haliburton overcame an illness and delivered in his biggest NBA game
Haliburton recorded his first triple-double (26-10-13) to lead the Pacers past the Celtics and advance to Las Vegas for the semi-final round of the tournament.
Tyrese Haliburton woke up on Saturday in Miami and he was miserable. He struggled to move and struggled to breathe. The team doctor visited his hotel room and immediately put him on medication.
Haliburton sat out of that game, just his second absence this season, then flew home and spent most of the next day and a half in bed.
“I’ve been sleeping for what feels like forever,” he said. “I knew I was gonna play tonight, though. There was no doubt about that, I don’t care what was going on.”
The Pacers’ quarterfinal game of the in-season tournament was the franchise’s biggest game in more than four years. A franchise so stable — including the longest-tenured NBA owner — and formerly a regular participant in the NBA playoffs, had not hosted a playoff game since 2019 due to the Covid-19 season and then three straight years in the draft lottery.
So Monday’s game was Indy’s time to shine on a national stage and the players brought it against the Celtics, who subjected the Pacers to a 51-point loss one month ago in Boston. That still didn’t sit right with this team and they used it as fuel.
“Don’t want to forget about it too much,” head coach Rick Carlisle acknowledged before the game.
Haliburton arrived on court for individual warmups at his usual time, 90 minutes before tipoff. But he didn’t look 100%; he looked tired, congested and you could tell he was fighting through an illness. He got through shooting with player development coach Isaac Yacob and was ready to fight through it, no matter how tough it was going to be.
He’s never reached the playoffs so this was the biggest game in his young career.
Once the game got underway, the Pacers fell behind but hung around enough to trail by seven points at halftime. Haliburton had seven points and just two assists. And Carlisle purposefully subbed him out first, even though often times he’ll play most of the opening quarter.
“In the first half I was dead,” Haliburton said postgame. So he made a tweak.